Please ignore the title of this post for just a moment. Let us review Chien-Ming Wang’s performance in Extended Spring Training today, complete with instant commentary.
7 innings — 91 pitches, 70 strikes
5 runs, 4 earned
That’s two too many boos for my liking. The report from Nardi Contreras wasn’t much better. From Feinsand (well, really McCarron):
“Maybe it’s the arm strength, not getting enough innings pitched last year,” Contreras said. “He hadn’t pitched in eight months. With arm strength, it’ll be easy for him to get the ball down. More arm strength, more velocity. The man didn’t pitch for eight months. It takes time to get it back.”
That last line is the most troubling. The Yankees don’t exactly have time for Chien-Ming Wang to re-find himself in the majors. While Nardi was also complimentary of Wang, noting his slider was “the best [he has] ever seen and he threw a lot of real good changeups.” His very next utterance, though: “When his sinker was down…” Need I go any further? His sinker was down in the first inning on Saturday and it didn’t stop the Indians from tattooing him in the second. If the Yanks aren’t sure that Wang is over his belt-high woes, they can’t continue to run him out for starts.
As many of the beats have suggested, the Yanks could opt to place Wang on the disabled list. Given the information available right now, I think it’s pretty clear that this is the ideal course of action. If the Yankees can place Wang on the DL they can line him up for two or three minor league rehab starts where he can continue to work on his issues without costing the big league club. It also gives the Yankees an opportunity to bring in Phil Hughes and see how he’s progressed from last year.
What poses better odds: that Phil Hughes pitches as badly as Chien-Ming Wang, or that Chien-Ming Wang miraculously returns to form? Give me the former. There’s no doubt Wang can become what he was before, but it’s not a situation where, as Brian Cashman said, “it’s ‘pow,’ fixed right away.” It might take some time. Since Wang is out of options (and for those who asked and were not answered, Wang was added to the 40-man roster in 2003 and is definitely out of options), the only way to get him real work and to free up the roster spot necessary is to place him on the disabled list. I’m sure the Yankees can cook up a reason why.
The silver lining in this is that if Wang returns to form and Hughes is pitching well, the Yanks all the sudden have a nice problem on their hands. As we found out after Xavier Nady’s injury, you can never, ever have too much depth.